American Diabetes Month 2015

The Physicians Committee


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American Diabetes Month 2015

November is American Diabetes Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people in the United States with diabetes more than tripled between 1980 and 2011.1 How might nutrition help alleviate these disease rates?

Vegan diets, free of meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products, contain no cholesterol and less fat and saturated fat, which contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease risk, in addition to diabetes risk.2 Scientific research shows that health benefits increase as the amount of food from animal sources in the diet decreases, making vegan diets the most healthful overall.

A vegan diet may also help with complications associated with diabetes. One that often goes unmentioned is neuropathy, or pain or numbness in the hands and feet through nerve damage caused by diabetes. This pain can cause other complications and severely lower quality of life. A low-fat vegan diet may reduce pain associated with diabetic neuropathy, according to a study published in Nutrition & Diabetes. Researchers assigned 35 individuals with type 2 diabetes and painful diabetic neuropathy either a low-fat vegan diet for 20 weeks or to a control group. At the end of the 20 weeks, the individuals in the vegan diet group lost an average of 14 pounds and showed greater improvements in pain measures, compared with the control group, indicating potential in a plant-based diet intervention for treating diabetic neuropathy.3

A plant-based diet for diabetes prevention and management is practical, simple, and delicious, all at the same time. Try these recipes below this fall to get you started:



Creamy Oatmeal

Makes 1 serving

Adding cold water makes a creamier and softer oatmeal.

  • 3/4–1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • cinnamon, to taste
  • fruit, to taste (optional)

Mix together oats and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on desired consistency. Add cinnamon and fruit, if desired.

Per serving: 156 calories; 2.6 g fat; 0.5 g saturated fat; 14.8% calories from fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 6.5 g protein; 27.2 g total carbohydrates; 0.6 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 6 mg sodium; 27 mg calcium; 1.8 mg iron; 0 mg vitamin C; 0 mcg beta-carotene; 0.3 mg vitamin E

Recipe from Neal Barnard, M.D.

Tofu Scramble

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped fresh kale
  • 16 ounces low-fat tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Heat 1/4 cup broth in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, and carrots. Cook until softened. Add remaining 1/4 cup broth and kale. Cover skillet and cook until kale is wilted. Add tofu. Cook until firm and lightly browned. Add salt, black pepper, and basil.

Per serving (1/4 of recipe): 161 calories; 6.9 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 38.5% calories from fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 13.5 g protein; 14.9 g total carbohydrates; 3.8 g sugar; 6.5 g fiber; 308 mg sodium; 116 mg calcium; 4.4 mg iron; 25.3 mg vitamin C; 4125 mcg beta-carotene; 0.9 mg vitamin E

Recipe from Brie Turner-McGrievy, M.S., R.D.




Almost-Instant Black Bean Chili

Makes 6 1-cup servings

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat the water in a large skillet or pot. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook over high heat stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, beans and their liquid, chilies, and cumin. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until flavors are blended.

Per 1-cup serving: 155 calories; 0.8 g fat; 0.1 g saturated fat; 4.7% calories from fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 8.7g protein; 29.6g carbohydrate; 2.6 g sugar; 11 g fiber; 473 mg sodium; 89 mg calcium; 3.1 mg iron; 9.1 mg vitamin C; 49 mcg beta-carotene; 0.4 mg vitamin E

Recipe from Foods That Fight Pain by Neal Barnard, M.D.; recipe by Jennifer Raymond, M.S., R.D.

Spinach Salad with Fruit Flavors

Makes 6 servings

  • 10 ounces chopped fresh spinach, washed
  • 1 cup berries or grapes, or 10 strawberries, chopped
  • 1 10-ounce can mandarin or clementine oranges or grapefruit sections, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted Brazil nuts
  • 1/4 cup fat-free raspberry vinaigrette

Toss ingredients together and serve.

Per serving (1/6 of recipe): 116 calories; 7.2 g fat; 1.2 g saturated fat; 55.5% calories from fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 3.9 g protein; 11.5 g carbohydrate; 5.7 g sugar; 3.2 g fiber; 61 mg sodium; 71 mg calcium; 2.1 mg iron; 36.8 mg vitamin C; 2748 mcg beta-carotene; 3.5 mg vitamin E

Recipe from The Survivor’s Handbook, The Cancer Project



Quickie Quesadillas

Makes 8 servings

  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup water-packed roasted red peppers
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed butter)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2–1 cup salsa

Place garbanzo beans in a food processor or blender with roasted peppers, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and cumin. Process until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.  Spread a tortilla with 2 to 3 tablespoons of garbanzo mixture and place in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle with onions, tomatoes, and salsa. Top with a second tortilla and cook until bottom tortilla is warm and soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook second side for another minute. Remove from pan and cut in half. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Per 1/2 quesadilla: 135 calories; 2.7 g fat; 0.4 g saturated fat; 18.1% calories from fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 5.5 g protein; 24 g carbohydrate; 2.3 g sugar; 4.4 g fiber; 164 mg sodium; 57 mg calcium; 1.8 mg iron; 26 mg vitamin C; 351 mcg beta-carotene; 0.7 mg vitamin E

Recipe from Healthy Eating for Life for Children by Amy Lanou, Ph.D.; recipe by Jennifer Raymond, M.S., R.D.

Sure-Fire Roasted Vegetables

Makes about 5 1-cup servings

  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1–3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 cup chopped eggplant
  • Italian, Mexican, or Indian Seasoning Mix
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans or black beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray jelly roll pan with vegetable oil spray. Combine broccoli, onions, garlic, bell peppers, zucchini or yellow squash, and eggplant in a bowl. Add your choice of Seasoning Mix. Toss vegetables to coat. Place vegetables in pan in a single layer. Roast 10 minutes. Take pan out of oven and spray tops of vegetables with vegetable oil spray. Turn veggies and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add beans and serve.

Per serving (with Italian Seasoning Mix): 133 Calories; 1.8 g Fat; 0.2 g Saturated Fat; 12,2% Calories from Fat; 0 mg Cholesterol; 6.8 g Protein; 24.7 g Carbohydrates; 3.8 g Sugar; 6 g Fiber; 206 mg Sodium; 67 mg Calcium; 2.7 mg Iron; 36.3 mg Vitamin C; 458 mcg Beta Carotene; 0.8 mg Vitamin E

Source: The Survivor’s Handbook: Eating Right for Cancer Survival by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., and Jennifer Reilly, R.D.

Interested in a plant-based diet for diabetes? Join a free 21-Day Kickstart program to transition to a plant-based lifestyle.

Learn more from Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., on diet and diabetes.

1. Number (in Millions) of Civilian, Noninstitutionalized Persons with Diagnosed Diabetes, United States, 1980–2011. Centers for Disease Control website. Accessed October 7, 2015.

2. Preventing Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control website. Updated September 30, 2015. Accessed October 7, 2015.

3. Bunner AE, Wells CL, Gonzales J, Agarwal U, Bayat E, Barnard ND. A dietary intervention for chronic diabetic neuropathy pain: a randomized controlled pilot study. Nutrition & Diabetes. Published online May 25, 2015.


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